Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in our “My Story With God” series.
What is a mentor? One definition is “a person who listens and works along side.” Everyone can be a mentor, and you probably are whether you realize it or not! Think of the many contacts you have throughout your daily life. People are watching you and observing how you live and interact with others.
A favorite little verse of mine emphasizes this…
You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day; By things that you do, by words that you say. Men read what you write, whether faithless or true. Say, what is the gospel, according to you?
Having been a mentor for the past several years with the C.S. Lewis Institute’s Fellows Program, I am accustomed to organized and deliberate mentoring situations. But recently, an opportunity to mentor came out of the blue. While having a casual conversation with a neighbor, I was asked if I was in a bible study. I was taken by surprise when my neighbor described herself as a “seeker,” not a word generally used by an unbeliever. As it turns out, she was not interested in a bible study. What she really wanted was to read and talk to someone about the Christian faith- basically, a spiritual mentor. Meeting over tea and books helped her feel comfortable to ask questions and explore.
So often, we who have grown up in the church take what we know for granted and expect others to know the basics, such as the books of the Bible. Since my neighbor did not have a Bible and was not familiar with biblical language, I gave her a copy of “The Message,” which uses modern terminology. She had read some of the Psalms, and was taken with them, so we read some together. The poetic language drew her to them.
She asked me to pray at the end of every meeting. Our first prayer-time moved her to tears and she confided that no one had ever prayed for her before. We continued to read and talk. She was not yet ready for a bible study nor an Alpha program- a curriculum-based discipleship program- but craved this unofficial version of discipleship.
This is not the end of her story. She says she is a “seeker.” Little does she know that she is the one being sought! I am praying that the Holy Spirit will continue to nudge her and that soon she will be willing to be vulnerable enough to attend an Alpha group.
In another, very different situation, one of my C.S. Lewis Fellows Program mentees was contemplating dropping out of the program before completing the year-long commitment. She had moved some distance away and the hours-long drive to our monthly group meetings was leaving her discouraged. After she moved, our one-on-one meetings were by phone. During one of our conversations, she mentioned that since she had become involved in a bible study effort in her new community, she was uncertain whether or not she should continue the trips back each month. As we talked, I encouraged her to think of the powerful work she was now doing. By organizing young and older women, she had become a mentor to them without even realizing it! Her response was, “I never thought about it that way!”
Not only were the discussions in our Fellows meetings helping her with the small group in her new church, the questions she posed in our meetings were enhanced by her work with the small group. She determined to complete the Fellows Program, using what she was gleaning from it to disciple other in her new home!
So what lessons can be learned from my experiences? Be watchful and ready! The Lord places you where you can make a difference for Him in someone else’s life. You may even be discipling and not be aware of how God is using you!
Joe Ann Stenstrom is currently serving on the Discipleship Committee of the WRC. She is a native of Salem, Oregon, but now calls Maryland home. She is a graduate of Seattle Pacific University (B.A. in education) and University of Washington (M.A. in Education). Joe Ann began her career as an elementary school teacher, and, after earning a Master of Library Science, has supervised and taught in libraries from elementary to university levels. Although now retired, she is involved in women’s ministry at her church, Fourth Presbyterian in Bethesda, and is a mentor in the C.S. Lewis Institute Fellows Program. Joe Ann also enjoys gardening, swimming, reading, opera, cooking and spending time with her four year olds grandson.